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California Perspective West

Proposed Bills Would Make Grocers Public Health Educators

Last updated on September 5th, 2012 at 11:40 am

Lawmakers continue to struggle with priorities as California’s unprecedented “top two” June primary election approaches and lawmakers face voters in newly drawn districts. Uncertainty about political futures has created an odd climate in Sacramento, with more than 2,000 bills introduced in 2012—many of which are rumored to be destined for the trash heap as soon as the June primary elections pass.

Grocery stores are the focus of increased attention with more than two dozen bills specifically targeting the industry as opposed to businesses in general. After spending a few years asking grocers to open stores in currently “underserved” areas, lawmakers appear to be shifting focus from store development to store character and product marketing. Some seem no longer content with encouraging grocers to expand in the state. Rather, they now want to dictate product mix, store design and pricing strategies.

Chief among the efforts is AB 2586 (Hueso), a measure that seeks to create a state certification program for “good” grocery stores. Under the bill’s provisions, the California Department of Food & Agriculture would be required to establish criteria and certify stores providing healthy options. Criteria included in the bill would rank stores based on square footage devoted to “healthy” foods and the placement and promotion of “unhealthy” vs. “healthy” foods. In addition, the criteria would include in-store marketing and discounting of “healthy” products. The entire program is predicated on creation of a partnership between grocers, health experts and communities to encourage healthier lifestyles. While the certification is envisioned as voluntary, the slope is slippery indeed.

Another offering, AB 1897 (Campos), attempts to address what the bill calls a “severe shortage of fresh, healthy and affordable food” in California by requiring local governments to address “healthy” food access in local planning documents. Oddly enough, the bill calls for development incentives for grocery stores that utilize “green” technology in refrigeration units, offer environmentally friendly cleaning products, conduct cooking classes in store, and stock a specified percentage of fair trade products.

These attempts to push grocers into the role of public health educators highlights for me the need to continue to work on grassroots relationships. In an effort to help bolster our grassroots communication, CGA has launched its own Food Action web page that will allow companies and individuals to communicate with lawmakers with a few clicks of the mouse. I encourage you to register today to receive action alerts as these and other bills move through the process this year. Visit www.cagrocers.com today and join us!

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